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Happy Birthday, Kurtis Blow!

Kurtis Blow
Chance Yeh, Getty Images

The great thing about some birthdays is how they give us a chance to remember some of the greats’ contributions to the culture. Today’s example is Kurt Walker better known as Kurtis Blow. The legendary rhymer turns 57 years old today (Aug. 9).

Blow started at the beginning of Harlem’s steep hip-hop heritage. While “The Breaks” is easily his most known song, Blow’s high regard comes from being the first rapper to earn a major record label contract, paving the way for the Beastie Boys and Run-DMC. Mercury Records took that chance in 1979 after the success of “Christmas Rappin’.”

The success of “The Breaks” (which sold over 1 million copies) and “Christmas Rappin'” (500,000 copies) also allowed him to become the first rhymer to travel overseas. Thus, in a sense, he was hip-hop’s first world ambassador as he brought his party-style rhymes to the globe.

“Once I made it big, I wanted to celebrate the positives in life, not backtrack to how life was like in Harlem,” Blow said in an 2012 interview with Wax Poetics magazine. “My neighborhood was just all very happy for me. Why would I continue on being negative and just talk about bad things? It was about uplifting, you know?”

Blow released eight albums in his career, but despite major label backing, none of them achieved a huge amount of chart success. Blow eventually stopped recording music. He’s now dedicated his life to religion, becoming an ordained minister in 2009.

Praise God I made it to 56!!!

A photo posted by Kurtis Walker (@kurtisblow100) on

Watch Kurtis Blow’s “Basketball” Video

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